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The only real performance problem was the autofocus system, which proved to be very slow. I found that trying to photograph any moving object was very difficult and frequently unsuccessful, because by the time the AF had locked on and the picture was taken, the subject had moved out of frame. Unlike a digital SLR, the 815 also has a movie mode, offering up to 640 x 480 resolution at 25 frames a second, although clip length is restricted to 30 seconds.
One major omission though, and one which some may feel ruins the camera, is the lack of image stabilization. On a camera with such a huge telephoto range this is a serious flaw. Unless you own and use a very solid tripod you will have major camera shake problems with the Pro815.
The most useful feature for the serious photographer is the RAW mode, which uses the excellent Adobe Digital Negative (DNG) format. If you’ve got an up-to-date version of Adobe Photoshop this lets you get the best out of the 815’s picture quality.
Unlike most non-SLR digital cameras, the Pro815’s 8.0MP CCD is actually a decent size. Most have either 1/ 2.5in sensors measuring 5.8 x 4.3mm, or 1/1.8in sensors measuring approximately 7.2 x 5.3mm. The 815 has a 2/3in sensor measuring 8.8 x 6.6mm, which while not up to DSLR standards provides more colour depth and lower image noise than most of its rivals.
The resulting picture is outstanding. The excellent lens provides superior sharpness and detail with minimal distortion even at wide angle, and the CCD and imaging system makes the most of it. Colour rendition is nice and neutral, exposure is superb and image noise is kept to an acceptable minimum even at the maximum 400 ISO.
File compression is not too severe, producing maximum resolution JPEGs of around 3.7MB with little or no compression artefacts. A 1GB CF card provides enough space for 245 photos.
Shooting in RAW mode and processing the results in Photoshop provides the best results, with sharpness and detail at least as good as some consumer DSLRs, and certainly better than the majority of other high-end zoom cameras. In RAW mode a 1GB card is enough for 62 photos.
Samsung has achieved a remarkable result with the Pro815, and it certainly bodes well for the company’s future in the digital camera market. I can’t wait to see what it does next.
The Samsung Pro815 is a truly superb camera, with superior build quality, outstanding design, a great range of versatile, creative and in some cases unique features, very good performance and outstanding picture quality. The only real let-down is the sluggish autofocus, but other than that it’s a serious alternative to a digital SLR.